An old African proverb tells us, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well, according to Candance Brake, “It also takes a village to provide the foundations necessary for early childhood development and growth, and our economic prosperity and quality of life depends on that [educational] foundation.” Brake, the President and CEO of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce, spoke before a crowded room at the ribbon cutting of Seven Hills Preschool on Thursday afternoon.
Seven Hills History
If you’ve lived in Owensboro long, you are probably familiar with the building on McConnell Avenue that originally held the Seven Hills Elementary School from 1957 until 2004. In 2005, Owensboro Public Schools opened their Gateway Academy in the same building and it remained there until moving to a new location in 2014.
Over the next three years, the building sat empty after being labeled an “A5” surplus property by the Kentucky Department of Education. According to Jared Revlett, Public Information Officer for OPS, that designation means that a school district may only repair the existing building but may not pursue any renovations.
In May 2017, Audubon Area Community Services purchased the building after Peggy Grant, Head Start Director for Audubon Area, approached the board with her dream of opening a full-day preschool program.
The building was purchased and the purchase price along with the renovations, totaling $3.1 million, was paid for through funding from the Office of Head Start. Once renovated the school would provide a 7 hour school day, 5 days a week, as opposed to the former 3 ½ hours, 4 days a week.
Truly a Community Effort
Once purchased, the building underwent extensive renovations, done by Scott & Murphy, Inc., Hartz Contracting. Ben Hartz, Project Manager, said this was a team effort with excellent subcontractors and his crew working countless hours, long days and weekends over a 7 month period. But for Hartz, the project was well worth the effort and time.
Hartz’s grandfather, Frank Hartz, originally built the Seven Hills structure with his company, Hartz-Kirkpatrick, and the sentimentality of the project was motivation for Ben and the company to turn in a successful bid.
Others in the community became involved with the project as well. Owensboro Regional Recovery, Daviess County Detention Center, and the Kentucky Wesleyan football team all assisted in the demolition of the original building. A local start-up church, Gospel Community, aided in the demolition as well, salvaging pieces to repurpose for their church building.
In addition to the funding provided by Head Start, donors from Texas Gas, E. M. Ford, CRS One Source and PNC Bank also helped with the final cost. Their names are displayed on a wall inside, where any future donors will be recognized as well. And today, this all came together in the culmination of a ribbon cutting outside a beautiful new building with a fresh start, which will provide a “head start” for our community’s preschoolers.
Brake said this is just “another example of Owensboro working together to get to the other side.”
Seven Hills Preschool currently has 155 students leaving 32 spots open. Registrations will be accepted until they reach their capacity of 187. In addition to 11 preschool classrooms, the school also boasts a full-time nurse with 2 medical assistants and 3 family advocates whose job it is to ensure any physical or socio-economic barriers to a child’s success are removed or lessened.
Teachers and staff will work diligently with students’ families throughout the school year in order for children to achieve academically, cognitively, physically and socially. A fully equipped kitchen will serve to provide two-thirds of the students’ daily nutrition through breakfast, lunch and a snack. A huge multi-purpose room, formerly the building’s gym and cafeteria will now provide a perfect gathering space for all student and teachers.
Dr. Jennifer Scarbrough, Head Teacher at Seven Hills Preschool, a veteran preschool teacher, left her job in South Spencer to come to Owensboro to teach, even though she actually lives in Rockport. “I know how important early childhood education is and to have a whole building that is dedicated to early childhood is what I am all about.” She is most excited about the new materials teachers have access to, the collaboration with other teachers and the professional development teachers will be able to take advantage of.
How Can My Preschooler be a Part of This?
In order to qualify for a Head Start preschool, a child must meet the following criteria:
- Be age 3 by August 1, 2018
- Be income-eligible
- Be identified with a developmental delay or other disability
To register a child, parents must provide the child’s birth certificate, social security number, and proof of up-to-date immunizations, a physical, and dental and vision exams.
Both Hager Preschool and Seven Hills Preschool will be offering full-day classes. Hager will serve students who live west of Frederica Street and Seven Hills will serve those east of Frederica Street. For more information, please contact the schools at 270-686-1125 (Hager) or 270-686-6059 (Seven Hills).